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Environment protection way forward for Asia
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By Daniel Dudek

For much of the 20th century, Asia was dominated by the geopolitical tides of war. The 21st century is seemingly peaceful but no less marked by a desperate struggle - the battle to protect our livelihoods and future by halting the uneconomic war on the environment.

We see this struggle reflected in headlines from Bali and Bangkok and news of retreating glaciers and extreme weather. We know that the major challenge facing Asia is to deepen economic development to share its benefits more widely with the many people remaining in poverty.

However, we also know that this cannot be accomplished without radically reforming the strategy of development at all costs to development that includes protecting the environment, the basis for most people's livelihood and well-being. The pressure of population and politics demand this progress.

The situation that we have come to is quite understandable. Governments have been eager to have the benefits of economic development for their people. Companies have been eager to acquire profits for their owners.

In their eagerness, no one particularly stopped to ask whether this bargain could be sustained or whether the environmental price might be too high. Most often the costs were perceived to accrue in some distant future long after today's beneficiaries have left the scene.

But this process has been going on long enough that people are starting to see the environmental results. Those future damages have arrived in today's reality.

Based on this rising awareness of the damage of uncontrolled development, governments are now requiring more than just new factories and new jobs, they also are beginning to be serious about requiring companies to control pollution of all kinds.

What is emerging is a new legal regime both national and international, previously absent, which forces responsibility on enterprises to reduce their environmental impact or face serious financial consequences.

Shareholders are increasingly pressing companies to improve their environmental performance in order to improve competitiveness. They are also worried about potential environmental liabilities that could crush their profits.

Customers in this globalized world are also increasingly aware that unrealistically low prices may also come with unrealistically high environmental damage and low quality. We are witnessing a global convergence of consensus on the imperative of sustainability.

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